EPA successful in High Court appeal
30 September 2021
The High Court has released its judgment in the case of the Environmental Protection Authority v BW Offshore Singapore Pte Ltd  NZHC 2577.
The case was an appeal by the EPA against costs awarded by the Environment Court, following an appeal by BWO of abatement notices issued under the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012.
The High Court rejected the Environment Court’s criticisms of the EPA’s decisions to issue and maintain the abatement notices.
It found the circumstances of this case were unusual; it was a situation where there was “considerable uncertainty” and the underlying difficulty was that the EEZ Act did not directly address the situation that had emerged.
The EPA’s General Manager, Compliance, Monitoring and Enforcement, Gayle Holmes, says: “We welcome the High Court’s judgment and its acknowledgment that the EPA acted in good faith in its application of the legislation in unusual circumstances.
“The judgment provides clarity on the EPA’s role in protecting the public interest in relation to environmental issues in the EEZ. It sets clear expectations for both the EPA as independent regulator and those operating in the EEZ.”
BWO operated the floating production storage and offtake facility (FPSO) Umuroa.
The FPSO operated in the Tui oil field within a petroleum mining permit, approximately 50 kilometres off the coast of Taranaki.
In March 2020, the EPA issued abatement notices to prevent disconnection of the FPSO by BWO. This was at a time when there was considerable uncertainty around the state, and future, of the Tui oil field. The EPA was faced with a previous oil spill, questions around the integrity of the infrastructure, an insolvent Tui field operator, and uncertainty around decommissioning.
In October 2020, the Environment Court cancelled the abatement notices, noting that there had been significant changes in the Tui field since the time that they were issued, and they were no longer needed.
BWO then applied to the Environment Court for costs against the EPA and the Environment Court ordered the EPA to pay BWO costs of $110,000.
The EPA successfully appealed that decision, resulting in the judgment released on 29 September 2021.
A link to Justice Cooke’s High Court judgment will be added to this page once it is available on the Court's website.